There were indications on Wednesday that the 27-man task force investigating the $2.1bn arms procurement scandal under the former President Goodluck Jonathan administration had traced N400m to the account of a serving army officer.
It was gathered on Wednesday that the EFCC operatives were still investigating the account of the officer, who featured in the procurement of arms in the immediate past administration.
It was also learnt that the commission would next week invite nine prominent northerners, who were mentioned in a letter which a former Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party’s Board of Trustees, Chief Tony Anenih, wrote to the anti-graft agency.
A senior operative of the commission said the EFCC was still probing other accounts of the army officer with a view to finding out if more discoveries could be made.
The EFCC operative, who confided in The PUNCH, said the commission was planning to make a series of arrests in security circles very soon.
The source added, “The commission has traced N400m to the account of a serving security operative. The shocking discovery was made just before the New Year.
“Efforts are still being made on more investigation into the matter. The motive is to go after some of these funds that are in private accounts.”
However, the source was silent on whether the security personnel had been picked up or not.
The EFCC had picked up a serving Colonel and a German citizen in connection with the ongoing investigation into arms procured under the Jonathan administration.
Sources said the duo were still being detained in connection with the training of 750 special forces in Belarus in 2015.
A top operative of the commission had, on Monday, said the commission had written to the Defence Headquarters and the heads of the three services of the Armed Forces for the release of some personnel needed by the anti-graft agency to shed light on their roles in arms procurement in the past administration.
The Defence Headquarters on Monday had said the military would not tolerate corruption, which it noted had retarded the development of the country.
The Acting Director, Defence Information, Brigadier General Rabe Abubakar, had told one of our correspondents on the telephone that the military was fully in support of the Federal Government’s campaign against corruption.
Another source in the EFCC on Wednesday said the commission was working on the letter it received from Anenih.
Anenih had, in the letter, explained how he shared N260m paid into his account by the Office of the National Security Adviser during the tenure of Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.).
He had allegedly written that he gave N63m to a group, coordinated by a former Special Assistant to former President Shehu Shagari, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai.
“We are working on the letter and next week, we may write Yakassai and others, whose names featured in it,” said the source, who confided in The PUNCH .
But Yakassai has denied receiving N63m from Anenih as personal money. Yakassai said this in a telephone interview on Wednesday.
He explained that while it was true that he received an amount of money from Anenih for an assignment, the money was not up to the amount quoted.
Pressed to say how much he received, Yakassai said he was not at liberty to say this, claiming the matter was in court.
He explained that each of the parties would tender his evidence in court when the case would come up.
Yakassai said, “The amount being bandied about is not what was given to me. It is true Chief Anenih gave the committee of eminent persons, which I headed some funds for our assignment. The money being quoted is not what we received.
“The committee of nine persons, which I led, was given an assignment to reach out to traditional rulers on the need for them to ensure peaceful elections in their domains because there was tension prior to the 2015 general elections.
“We went round 18 states and Abuja where we met two persons in each of the states we visited. We started with the Sultan of Sokoto.We could not meet with traditional rulers in Gombe because on the day of our visit, Boko Haram attacked the town and there were reports that they were targeting the Government House, where we were at that time.
“The money the committee received was for logistics, such as transport and accommodation. We wrote a report after our assignment, which started on January 14 and ended on February 15, 2015; the records are there.”
The elder statesman said he was prepared to defend the activities of the committee when required to do so, stressing that the committee performed its assignment creditably and transparently.
Meanwhile, the national leadership of the PDP has said it is not against the prosecution of those who looted funds meant for the purchase of arms to prosecute the war against Boko Haram.
The party added that rather, those responsible for the looting of the funds should be properly punished to serve as a deterrent to others.
Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Alhaji Ibrahim Jalo, stated this in an interview in Abuja.
Jalo said it was wrong to assume that the party was supporting corruption, adding that no member of the party, currently being prosecuted for alleged corruption, had claimed to have received any money on behalf of the party.
Jalo said the arraignment of members of the party for corruption-related offences had not affected the integrity of the party.
He said, “Those being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and whose accounts huge sum of money were found had not claimed that they received the money or the contract on behalf of the party.
“All of them that received contracts did so with their personal companies.
“It will therefore be wrong to assume that the wrongs of few members of the party were enough to tarnish the image of the party that had united Nigerians. PDP remains a clean party.
“But we would insist that those who looted funds meant for the procurement of arms meant to fight Boko Haram should be punished.
“We, however, urged the Federal Government to follow the rule of law and allow the courts to determine the guilt or otherwise of all accused persons.”
Some members of the party are currently being prosecuted for allegedly benefiting from the money meant to procure arms for the fight against insurgency in the North-East.
Among those currently facing different charges before different courts in Abuja are the Acting Chairman of the BoT of the party, Alhaji Haliru Bello; a former National Security Adviser to the President, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.); a former governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa; a former Minister of State for Finance, Amb. Bashir Yuguda; and the founder of Daar Communications Plc, Dr. Raymond Dokpesi.
The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Chief Olisa Metuh, is currently being detained by the EFCC over alleged corruption.
But Jalo insisted that while the accused persons remained innocent until proven otherwise by the court, he pleaded that the PDP should not be dragged into their different cases.
He said the party was proud of the achievements of former Goodluck Jonathan, who he said, worked hard to see an end to insurgency in the North-East.
Jalo said, “Former President Jonathan gave out money to fight insurgency, but if there were people who ate the money and didn’t use it for the purpose, they should be tried.
“No one had given money to the party. No money had been traced to the party’s account. Money meant for the party would not be given to individuals.”
In a related development, Dokpesi has described the alleged missing $2.1bn arms fund as a hoax.
He said Nigerians would soon know that the charges were meant to decimate the leadership and membership of the opposition party.
Dokpesi spoke in Abuja when members of the PDP Youth Vanguard named him as the group’s patron.
He said, “Our party is indeed experiencing a massive persecution, political repression and vendetta of the kind never before seen on our shores, targeted at the leadership, membership and indeed sympathisers of the PDP by the All Progressives Congress government of the day.
“I speak with regard to several matters before the law courts of our country concerning the PDP members and especially my humble self on charges filed against us by the Federal Government.
“I must hasten to assure you that there is nothing like the much-flaunted $2.1b arms gate. The competent courts of our land would sooner or later prove this coinage, aimed at decimating the leadership and membership of our great party, to be nothing but a hoax.”
Dokpesi told the youths group that the PDP had not and would not die.
In another twist, a former Special Adviser to Jonathan on Political Matters, Mr. Ahmed Gulak, has called on members of the party and the BoT to elect a substantive party chairman.
Gulak, during a briefing in Abuja on Wednesday, reminded members of the party of the court ruling, restraining former Deputy National Chairman of the PDP, Uche Secondus, from parading himself as the PDP acting National Chairman.
He said the party currently lacked genuine leader as there was no legally recognised chairman that would pilot the affairs of the party.
A verdict by Justice Hussein Baba of the High Court, Federal Capital Territory, had ordered Secondus to vacate the PDP chairmanship seat within 14 days.
The court order followed a suit filed by Gulak, where the court ruled that Secondus assumed the headship of the party through an illegitimate process.
However, Gulak said he should be elected as the new party chairman or any other eligible person from the North-East zone.
He said, “It is necessary for me to let the fact of my matter with PDP be known to all PDP members across the country.
“On December 16, 2015, consequent upon the suit I filed against Secondus, the then acting chairman of the PDP, the court gave judgment, declaring the continuous existence of Secondus as chairman as null and void and ordered a perpetual injunction against him, parading himself as acting chairman.
“The court gave 14 days, within which the party should either appoint me or any other person from the North-East geo-political zone as the acting chairman.
“Fourteen days from the date of judgment expired on December 29, 2015. As it is today, the party has no properly constituted organ. The National Executive Committee, National Working Committee and the national caucus, which by the constitution of our party, must at all times, every time, be chaired by a national chairman or acting chairman.
“As it is today, we don’t have a national chairman or acting chairman by the court order and as such, the organs of the party are not properly constituted in view of the constitutional provisions.
“Again, the BoT, whose acting chairman’s tenure expired in August, is also not properly constituted. I call all the BoT members of our party to attend the January 14 meeting and let them elect among them, their chairman so that at least, one of our important organs can be properly constituted.”
In another development, the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, has said the commission will not spare any bureau de change operator involved in the ongoing $2.1bn arms procurement scam.
Magu said some BDC operators were alleged to have been involved in the fraudulent diversion of funds meant for arms procurement in the last administration.
He added that some of the operators were discovered to have withdrawn N500m in two to four tranches per day in the funds under investigation.
He called for a proper documentation of the activities of the operators as a way of preventing them from carrying out financial operations to the detriment of society.
Magu stressed that the BDC operators were allegedly taking huge amount of money outside the country since the government’s policy, restricting people from withdrawing more than $300 per day abroad with ATM cards, became operational.
The Head of Media and Publicity of the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, quoted Magu to have made the comment when the BDC operators, led by their Chairman, Alhaji Aminu Gwadabe, paid a courtesy call on him in Abuja on Tuesday.
He said, “My operatives often tell me what they see during investigations. We need to talk to you, as some of your operators are fond of carrying huge amounts of money out of the country since they can no longer withdraw more than $300 using the ATM.
‘‘There are fraudulent involvements of Bureau De Change operators in the arms deal scandal. There are reports of some of your members withdrawing as much as N500m in two, three, four tranches in this arms deal scam.”